With so much focus on environmental protection nowadays, “waste reduction” has become somewhat of a buzz word. In today’s technology driven world where gadgets and gizmos are becoming bigger and bigger parts of our lives, an unprecedented amount of waste is being generated, in addition to the conventional waste that we as a human race have already been generating for millennia.
While it’s next to impossible to prohibit the use of waste generating products, prudence lies in focusing on the control and reduction of waste in our daily lives. Each and every one of us can easily contribute in our own way, by simply reducing waste generated by our particular lifestyle.
One of the areas of waste reduction which often gets neglected is the workplace. While companies may consider it cost inefficient to focus on waste reduction rather than on their core business and employees may not consider it to be their responsibility, the reality is far from this. Recent studies and exercises have shown that focusing on waste reduction can actually help businesses reduce their overall operating costs.
Following good waste reduction practices in the workplace can also help increase employee efficiency; not to mention that playing a role in the protection of our environment can add to job satisfaction. A few areas that can be worked on to reduce business waste and become a green business include:
Reduce Paper and Printing Supplies
Almost all businesses rely on huge quantities of paper and printed material to go about their day to day operations, and it’s a type of waste that largely goes unnoticed. In fact, it’s almost expected to find piles of waste paper by the printers, or in garbage cans or shredders at many offices.
Here are a few methods that can be adopted to help printing and paper waste and reduce business waste:
Controlled Printer Access: Businesses should control their employees’ printer access so that printer usage can be closely monitored. Monitoring printer usage ensures that printers are used for official business purposes only, and that paper and ink are not wasted on needless jobs.
Double Sided Printing: Businesses should set all printers to print double sided by default or make double sided printing mandatory among all employees. This simple change can immediately halve the amount of paper being used.
Regular Monitoring of Paper Usage: Company management should regularly monitor quantity of paper being used by each department. The average usage should typically be consistent throughout different departments and monitoring for usage spikes or exceptional conditions helps keep paper usage in check.
Recycle: Businesses should have agreements in place with recycling companies for the regular collection of recyclable waste, and recycling within the workplace itself should be actively promoted. For example, shredded paper can also be used as packing material for anything that needs to be shipped or mailed by company employees. Businesses could also switch to recycled toner and ink cartridges, which are cheaper and just as efficient as new ones, while also helping cut back on unnecessary metal and plastic waste.
Reduce Color Printing: Unless absolutely necessary, color printing should be avoided to reduce ink consumption.
Paper Procurement: Businesses should switch to and implement policies to procure 100% recycled, or chlorine-free high recycled content office paper. Alternative, more sustainable paper sources, like cotton or hemp, may also be considered.
Minimize Paper Use: Encouraging the use of electronic methods of communication and non-print media over printed letters and documents can help take a company far in terms of reducing paper use and waste. In fact, more and more modern businesses are switching to a completely paperless environment.
Digital Databases: Businesses have long been storing critical information and documents operations as hard copies and filing them away using traditional methods, like filing cabinets. Digitalizing such information and documents into a database with a suitable back up plan and providing employees with need-based access can be an important milestone for any business. Switching to a centralized database not only reduces waste in terms of paper, but also eliminates the burden and cost associated with maintaining a separate store full of important company documents.
Energy Conservation is a constantly developing field in which companies can do a lot by simply reducing unnecessary energy consumption and using energy efficient office equipment.
By making the switch to energy efficient equipment, businesses can significantly reduce their carbon footprint. Lately, large corporations have begun to focus on building more sustainable, energy efficient offices which utilize the natural resources around them. Something as simple as letting in more natural light can help minimize an office’s reliance on artificial light and help facilitate energy conservation.
Maintaining a Standard Temperature: By establishing a standard temperature throughout the office building and sticking to it, businesses are not only helping the environment, but also saving money. Setting the thermostat slightly lower in winter, or slightly higher in summer can help slash utility costs. Even a seemingly unnoticeable adjustment of just one degree can have a significant impact on energy consumption, which will in turn help a company reduce its carbon footprint.
Using Energy Efficient Lightbulbs: Modern day fluorescent and LED bulbs are more efficient than traditional incandescent bulbs and as a result require less energy. What’s more, with the expected lifespan of an LED bulb being up to 100,000 hours as opposed to 2,000 for an incandescent bulb, they’re more reliable and need to be replaced less often; saving businesses money on replacements while reducing energy consumption.
Using Star Rated Equipment: Star rated equipment, like air conditioners and printers, are highly energy efficient and help reduce unnecessary energy consumption.
Adopt New Age Energy Saving Technologies: Businesses can adopt modern energy saving technologies such as motion sensors in their efforts to reduce their carbon footprint. Such devices can be incorporated into light fixtures and equipment to facilitate energy conservation by only activating when someone is detected in the vicinity.
Take Advantage of Natural Light: As we briefly touched on above, office buildings should be equipped with plentiful windows and transparent fixtures placed in strategic locations in order to let as much natural light in as possible. This helps to reduce the use of artificial light within the building.
Generating Awareness: Businesses should take initiative and create awareness on the need to conserve energy among their employees, educating them about how they themselves play a crucial role in this initiative. Something as simple as making a conscious effort to turn off the lights after leaving a room or turning off equipment like printers or scanners when not in use can make a big difference.
Computers, printers and scanners form the bulk of most company office equipment today. Almost every employee is equipped with a computer of some sort, and thus these make up one of an office’s major sources of energy consumption, as well as electronic waste.
To keep track of resource use and waste, it’s important to properly manage computer systems and their use.
Use Computer Systems Prudently: To avoid unnecessary energy consumption, companies can increase awareness among their employees and require them to turn off their computers before leaving the office.
Quality Procurement: Procuring high quality computer systems from well-known brands ensures that computer systems are more reliable, are more energy efficient, and produce less electronic waste in the long term.
Minimize Energy Consumption: A company’s IT department can adjust computer settings so that there is minimal energy consumption in standby mode.
Screen Savers: Thanks to technological advances, screensavers are no longer necessary, yet many people still choose to use them for aesthetic reasons. To help save energy, employees should be discouraged from using screensavers, and encouraged to either turn off their monitor or put their computer into standby mode if they anticipate not using it for a while.
Choose Laptops Over Desktop Computers: When compared to desktop computers, laptops are known to be more energy efficient. Hence, energy conscious businesses can procure laptops, rather than traditional desktop computers. Even though laptops may be slightly more costly than desktop computers, the energy savings make them more cost effective in the long run.
Logistics and Commutes
Most companies generally do not consider employee logistics as an area to be delved upon. Nevertheless, businesses can play an important role in encouraging employees to choose more environmentally friendly modes of transport for their daily commutes, which can have a significant impact on a business’ general waste reduction efforts.
Carpool Programs: By creating an app or a help desk that acts as a bridge between employees wanting to carpool, companies can facilitate carpooling initiatives.
Minimize Employee Travel: Video conferencing facilities along withconventional conference call facilities can reduce unnecessary employee travel, by eliminating the need to travel for meetings and other official purposes which can be handled through simple discussion.
Reducing Waste in Manufacturing Units
Organizations with manufacturing units having production facilities can also do a lot to reduce waste in the workplace. As per traditional terminology, the term ‘workplaces’ generally denotes office spaces, and manufacturing units, as well as production facilities may not be considered workplaces in that sense; however, manufacturing facilities form a major part of the workplace for organizations whose core business focuses on manufacturing.
More importantly, these units are a major source of waste generation and hence, should be included in this discussion. In order to reduce waste in the workplace, such organizations can adopt one or more of the following methods:
State of the Art Equipment: Although their initial purchase price might be higher, by installing the latest energy efficient equipment, businesses benefit from lower energy consumption, reduced waste generation, and better production efficiency. These benefits eventually offset the higher procurement cost and can even serve to increase revenue in the long run.
Waste Reduction & Disposal Policies: Manufacturing units should adapt processes and use equipment that minimizes waste generation as much as possible. Production processes should have standard procedures in place that ensure the proper disposal of any waste produced.
Waste Recycling: Recycling facilities can also be installed to aid in the recycling of certain wastes that can even be fed back into the production process. Apart from reducing waste, recycling facilities can also be cost effective and can help an organization’s bottom line.
No matter how small, everything adds up. The same applies in our crusade to reduce waste; and with time, working on the smaller things can have a huge incremental impact over time.
Re-Usable Material: Using re-usable cutlery in a workplace canteen can help reduce a significant amount of waste.
Drinking Water Filters: Installing filters to provide employees with safe, clean drinking water can help reduce the waste generated by bottled water.
Using Recycled Water in Toilets: Huge amounts of water can be conserved by using recycled water in toilet flushing systems. Many companies have even started using bio-friendly toilets, which are able to clean themselves without using any water at all.
Try and Do Your Part to Reduce Business Waste
Review the above list and make the necessary changes to your business in order to reduce your carbon footprint and SAVE money in the process. If you are struggling with reducing business waste, contact Waste Control for a FREE business waste audit and analysis. We save customers, on average, 15-50% on their waste bills and reduce their business waste and carbon footprint! Or, even better, if you are interested in becoming a zero waste certified business, contact us today!
About the Author
David Fahrion serves as the President of Waste Control after a 40-year career in the waste and recycling industry. Prior to joining Waste Control, he worked exclusively for CR&R and its affiliates since 1986 serving as the President of the Solid Waste Management Division. During his career, he worked on all facets of the solid waste management business from dispatching and routing to contract negotiations and state facility permitting.